As the cleanup of City Park no doubt continues this brisk fall day, one word comes to mind about the just-wrapped Voodoo Music Experience 2012.
Sure, there were high points, damned transcendent ones at that. But what lingers apart from those few-and-far-between saving graces are memories of young girls in next to nothing shivering on their way into the park, brahs in baseball caps ogling said girls, absolute Bud Light domination, ubiquitous Garnier giveaways, dazed-and-confused electro kids lounging on the grass with not a lick of attention paid to the stage (seriously, why not just stay at home and take those drugs?), surprisingly sparse crowds and, oh yeah, a lot of underwhelming music.
Fashion notes: the “Keep Calm and [fill in the blank]” trend has jumped the shark, as have zombies–just sayin’. Will Ferrell was in the house, at least a guy dressed as his Zoolander character Mugatu was. So, too, was an adorable tyke dressed as Edward Scissorhands (nice work, parental units). Young ladies, please make sure your shorts amply cover your lower butt cheeks. It’s easy if you try.
As for the musical highlights…
The TBC Brass Band busted out the Fat Albert theme song and set the tone for early Friday afternoon. Nah nah nah, gonna have a good time…
Katey Red delivered another bootylicious Bounce “Azztravaganza,” as keenly self-aware of the humor as of the infectious beats.
So what if he’s derivative? Gary Clark Jr. oozed charisma, his drummer Johnny Radelat was a machine, and Clark’s Friday set made good on the live hype.
Silversun Pickups impressed, especially their subbing bassist Sarah Negahdari, filling in for a very pregnant-with-twins Nikki Monninger.
Toots and the Maytals had everyone feeling all right Saturday night, rich and radiantly full-sounding as ever.
Dave Stewart did a song he co-wrote way back when, a little Petty ditty called “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” complete with fiddle player. Good stuff.
The Revivalists and Soul Rebels on the same stage (for the former’s set) made for a terrific local collaboration.
Metallica served up their greatest hits, cray cray pyrotechnics and fireworks, and a couple licks of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
Little Freddie King and Guitar Lightnin’ Lee had the crowd doing the “Chicken Dance,” among other equally funky dances.
Thomas Dolby proved an engaging pop showman, yet again, and alt rock supergroup Tomahawk was simply badass. ‘Nuff said.
Nas turned out a fantastic mix of classics and new tracks, earning more than a few new fans if not quite ruling the world.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse showed everyone how rock ‘n’ roll is done in a brain-breakingly unleashed set Friday night during which the winds gusted seemingly just to add to Young’s force-of-nature bluster. The man was inarguably fucking amazing.
And then there was closing headliner Jack White, who, in the spirit of Young and Crazy Horse, tore the whole damn affair apart Sunday evening.
Full disclosure: White was my can’t-miss this weekend, though after Young’s world-rocking (yep, and nope, he didn’t do that) set Friday I didn’t think my expectations could possibly be met, let alone exceeded. Friday was just that exceptional.
That said, Jack White came damned close to matching Young. (In terms of volume, he topped him.)
Backed by the all-male Buzzards, the nattily dressed White referenced everyone from Dick Dale to New Orleans’ son James Booker in a set culled from his White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and now solo days. Of the latter, “Love Interruption” was a scorchingly sexy standout, thanks to a duet with Ruby Amanfu (of White’s other backing band, the all-female Peacocks). By the time he got to Stripes’ staples “Hello Operator” and closer “Seven Nation Army,” even the most casual crowdmember could not deny this was an artist at the top of his game (alas, no “Denial Twist”).
When you’re at an “experience” as profoundly mediocre, dare I say soulless, as Voodoo, it’s such a performance – or a handful of the aforementioned fleeting moments – that make the thing.
At least we had Neil and Jack. Two better bookends to a lackluster weekend could not be had.